Thursday, September 01, 2005

Now if they'd just get cracking on the "thin and blonde" drug. . .

According to today's NYT, the FDA has approved the new drug Increlex for the treatment of "abnormally short stature." The clinical trials of the new drug were done with kids who had not responded to injections of human growth hormone, the current standard treatment.

The NYT article notes: "An estimated 6,000 children in the United States have the specific condition for which the F.D.A. approved the drug, although some doctors expect Increlex to be more broadly prescribed to children with less severe growth abnormalities."

This is yet another variation on the "treatment vs. enhancement" debate. So at what point--if any--ought short stature be considered a disease? Data suggests that tall folks do, in fact, have social and economic advantages over the vertically challenged: but does that make it a disease or a disability? The larger question--which applies to many other topics, incluindg the fight over whether Ritalin is treating a genuine medical problem or being used to bring the classroom behavior of little boys under control--is whether it's a good idea to medicalize characteristics that are part of the normal range of human variation.

It's also worth asking, who benefits when we decide to label something a disease?

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